Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your long weekend reading.

- Bruce Johnstone comments on the real source of Saskatchewan's relative economic success over the past few years - and not surprisingly, it has nothing at all to do with the Sask Party government that's so desperate to take credit:
Doug Elliott, publisher of Sask Trends Monitor, the statistical monthly newsletter, noted last year that the province's real economic growth (accounting for inflation) averaged a tepid 1.1 per cent during the previous five years, including two years (2005 and 2009) of economic contractions.

And Elliott observed that most of what was deemed to be an economic boom (such as the four-per-cent plus growth in 2008) was largely due to price increases for our resource commodities.

"There was no 'economic boom' in real GDP, the statistic used by most economists to measure economic activity. The growth in 2007 and 2008 was purely price-related," Elliott said in his October 2010 report.
...
(T)he very resources and commodities that drive our economy - oil and gas, potash and uranium, grains and oilseeds - tend to fluctuate in price. As a result, our economic growth is likely to be bumpy and unpredictable, rather than slow and steady, like larger, more diversified economies.

That's nothing to be ashamed of.

But let's not jump to conclusions about how we came to enjoy such impressive economic growth as we've seen in the past couple of years.

Neither should we be under any illusions about how permanent and predictable our economy has become either.
Which, in addition to calling into question the Sask Party's attempt to claim credit for any development, would seem like a rather compelling case to make sure that short-term price boosts turn into longer-term development through a Bright Futures Fund.

- Via Aaron Wherry, the Literary Review of Canada publishes Jack Layton's take on the place of idealism in politics:
The idealist current holds that human society has the potential to achieve liberty when people work together to form a society in which equality means more than negative liberty, the absolute and protected right to run races against each other to determine winners. Idealists imagine a positive liberty that enables us to build together toward common objectives that fulfill and even surpass our individual goals.

In Canada and in other “developed” democracies, we have seen positive understandings of social institutions pushed aside in recent decades. Suspicion has been cultivated of anything done by “government” …

Canadians have not been quite so quick to jump to these absolute positions, however … When asked what they value most about their country, many Canadians will cite the fundamentals of our public healthcare system, even as they underline certain shortcomings. A collective project, caring for one another irrespective of financial means or resources, is seen as a fundamental, a defining characteristic, a source of quiet pride and a good reason to stay at home. Canada’s healthcare system is, in many ways, an incarnation of the positive perspective on freedom—the power to work together, through our democratic institutions, to build the kind of community in which we want to live.

In response to the challenges we face, we need to work together to build a Canada in which government is the vehicle for our collective efforts to make the better world we all hope to leave to future generations. Canadian Idealists can help guide our thinking.
- Meanwhile, Barrie McKenna questions the mindset that's limited the place of idealism for far too longer:
(T)hree decades of...supply-side policies have produced the same economic problems they were supposed to fix, including stagnant growth, high unemployment, deflationary pressures and piles of public sector debt, according to Mr. Curtis, a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont., and Mr. Ciuriak, former deputy chief economist at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

And now with the world awash in goods people can’t afford, the solution of choice in many countries is to spur even more production and to slash transfers to debt-burdened families.

There’s an inherent contradiction in the model. Those policies are causing household incomes to fall, making consumers less able to buy things, and driving inflation lower. The recent sharp plunge in the prices of oil, wheat, copper and other vital commodities suggests that’s exactly what’s happening.

Second-guessing supply-side economics is more than an academic exercise. Some of the prescriptions now on the table to get the world out of this mess may actually be hastening another recession.
...
Accepted beliefs can, and do, change. Today’s orthodoxy can become tomorrow’s heresy.

It’s certainly worth asking the right questions so we avoid repeating the same mistakes.
- Finally, Michael Geist points out that consumers' interests are noticeably lacking in the CRTC's consultation report on Internet video services.

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